By Mike Rouse.

Talk of a change to the Conservative Party constitution is ratcheting up.

Funny, I remember such talk about changing the rules being dismissed and derided when Lord Cruddas and the Conservative Post launched a petition to change the constitution so that a Party Leader cannot be ousted by MPs alone without the support of the wider membership.

The petition asked for Boris to be put on the final ballot, and I am told it is highly likely to have exceeded the 10,000 signatures required to trigger a change process within the Conservative Party. The mechanism for change would be Schedule 9 of the party’s constitution, Article 2 of this Schedule allows the Party Chairman to write a motion to put to a Constitutional College. I believe it would be in the Chairman’s gift to interpret the petition and write a motion according to his understanding of its meaning, reflecting the mood of the petitioners who are all hard-working members. It can then be put to a vote within 28 days.

However, one of the wise senior activists in one of my WhatsApp groups offered an opinion about it all at the time, saying:

“… if we do want to discuss any rule changes that should be done in a calm and reflective way at a later date.”

Hard to disagree with that, but unfortunately, the day might be later but we are no calmer nor reflective. Indeed, the Parliamentary Conservative Party appears to be losing its senses, and is now ‘in talks’ about changing the constitution. Isn’t it funny how when a handful of MPs want to change the constitution the traction is immediate, but when more than 10,000 party members demand the same there is a definite dragging of the heels.

Isn’t it funny how when a handful of MPs want to change the constitution the traction is immediate, but when more than 10,000 party members demand the same there is a definite dragging of the heels.

The membership tried to save the Parliamentary Conservative Party from itself. During the shortlisting phase, I know for a fact that Association members up and down the country were making representations to their sitting Conservative MPs, almost pleading with them not to ‘stitch up’ the final two on the ballot.

Members wanted to test Penny Mordaunt or Kemi Badenoch, the reception for Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak was lukewarm at best.

They didn’t listen. A sizeable group of MPs thought they knew best, so they ensured that Rishi topped the list followed by Liz Truss who they thought would flop against Rishi in the hustings.

As we know, it backfired, but not just because Liz Truss failed to flop, but because Rishi supporters miscalculated the volume of members who would never vote for Rishi due to his role in the downfall of Boris Johnson – arguably enough to hand the contest to Liz Truss.

A large group of MPs are essentially blaming the membership for something of their own making, and the membership will not carry the can alone for the debacle that has now unfolded. The responsibility and burden must be shared, but if you are looking for the source then look no further than the herd mentality of those MPs who forced Boris Johnson out of office, and the same herd mentality that ensured it was a Rishi vs Liz final.

Now they want to remove the right of members to choose the leader. Not fully content with removing the right of members to help formulate party policy via the party conference process, they now want to go whole hog and remove probably the last decent reason people join the Conservative Party – to choose the leader.

The anger in my WhatsApp groups now is palpable, almost to the point of riot amongst the membership.

The anger in my WhatsApp groups now is palpable, almost to the point of riot amongst the membership. Any attempts to remove the rights of members to choose the leader is likely to be met with the fiercest of resistance, not least from the army of more than 10,000 party members who have already asked for constitutional changes so that members rights around the leadership are better protected and indeed enhanced. We do not need to embark on this constitutional collision course right now.

You need to ask why a small group of MPs are so intent on trying to change the rules and avoid the members.

I suspect it is because they know that the members want Boris Johnson to make a comeback, and they’d re-elect him in a heartbeat even if that meant the same group of MPs had to eat a slice of an ever-growing humble-flavoured pie. It is up to them whether it is a small slice delivered by a Boris comeback, or a massive slice delivered by the electorate in 2024.

Don’t get me wrong. I think the members recognise that a coronation can happen if one of the final two pulls out, and I am not arguing that this needs to change. It deprives the members of their final say, and they are not always happy about it, but they are also a pragmatic bunch and know that such an outcome is within the rules and sometimes cannot be helped. It just underscores yet again why trying to remove the rights via changing the rules is just so pointless. Members work so hard for our party; all they ask for in return is respect for their rights as members.

Members work so hard for our party; all they ask for in return is respect for their rights as members.

A group of MPs have tried to snatch away the rights of members before, and they failed. The good, hard-working members of the Conservative & Unionist Party refused steadfastly to give up, and they were supported by some MPs who do seem to care about the membership and our democratic process as a party – indeed, some vocal voices against the proposals at the time were not MPs then, but are now, such as Nadine Dorries. We need those MPs who do still respect our party’s membership to step forwards and defend our constitutional rights once again.

There is a crumb of comfort, but also a point that demonstrates the futility of the collision course some MPs are keen on. If there is to be change to the constitution it must be approved by a Constitutional College, which is dominated by senior party members and officials. To be precise, the Constitutional College includes all 800+ members of the National Conservative Convention, which is made up of Association Chairs, Area and Regional Officers. It also includes all Conservative MPs in the Commons and Officers of the Association of Conservative Peers and Lords Frontbenchers – essentially all parts of the Conservative Party without deferring to the entire mass membership. Given the breadth of the Constitutional College it is extremely likely that this attempt by a small group of MPs will fail – and it must.

Mike Rouse is a County Councillor in Worcestershire, an Area Officer, a constituency agent, and party activist with 20 years service. Follow Mike on Twitter here.

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  1. Liz Truss’ election was illegal in the first place, as it did not follow a negative confidence vote, and the members were not given the right to accept or reject Boris’ resignation in view of the circumstances under which he was forced out, defying the democratic will of the electorate. I only voted, reluctantly, to keep Fishy Snake out of the grass. It felt like I was complicit in their treachery. The constitution should declare the whole process invalid, and just reinstate Boris with an apology, like the many apologies he also honourably expressed during his term of office.

    • I agree with you Ronnie it was a very difficult decision to make but I still believe that Boris is the only man for the job and we have had him on the leadership ballot we would have him back as our leader and we wouldnt be in this terrible mess, wasting time and money when they should be sorting all the problems in the country. Time for a Boris comeback.

  2. I’m not sure what is the best method of selecting a Party Leader. Having voted for Boris Johnson and Liz Truss. I don’t feel that I made the right decision with both now in hindsight. Members make mistakes that applies to Labour also who selected Jeremy Corbyn hardly a success either.

  3. Every member I have spoken to – and don’t forget we are also the fundraisers, door knockers, leaflet droppers, & those who help MPs get elected – every single one of them said if the MPs circumvented or removed their right to vote for the leader THEY WILL CANCEL THEIR MEMBERSHIP immediately. We are the worker bees. Good luck getting elected without us.

    • I cancelled my membership when my then local MP, Patrick McLoughlin, campaigned for remaining in the EU.
      I was tempted to rejoin when Boris was elected, but then realised my current MP appears to believe that a man can become a woman.

  4. How can we claim to be a democratic party if we keep denying the British people a chance to choose their next prime minister? Ms Truss has no mandate and nor will her successor. Any true Conservative who respects our constitution should back the campaign for a General Election.

  5. Yes we have the right as paid up members to vote. Because the member are not doing what you want you are changing the rules appalling behaviour from you lot. Schoolchildren would behave better than you lot.

  6. The Rank & File members of the constituency parties must accept their share of the blame.
    For too long they have allowed their local leaders to accept Central Office diktat on who they select as candidates and have thus handed the leadership of the party to the Blairite, New Labor Lite, TINO clique, beholden to the WEF Globalists.
    It is time for them to wake up and get a grip on their leadership or, if that is too difficult, dissolve the party.

  7. Very interesting post thank you Mike Rouse We are being treated as idiots I really hope the Brady bunch get their come uppance


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